New York, New York—a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, and the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the ground.
New York, New York—it’s a helluva town!
Choosing the setting of a book is one of an author’s toughest jobs. I have to feel an affinity for a place before I choose to set a story there. Of all the cities I’ve visited or researched, the one I will always love most is the Big Apple.
I took my first trip to New York City with my family in the 1970s. I don’t remember exactly what age I was at the time, but I’d guess eight or nine. Even then, it made an impression on me—a bad impression. The subways were dirty and full of graffiti. The people were rude and pushy. Everyplace we visited was badly organized, especially trying to get to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. We stayed in queue until we hit her feet. Then we finally gave up. After that disastrous trip, it’s a wonder I even bothered to go back.
But thankfully things change. New York City evolved in the 80s and 90s. The mayor and citizens launched a concerted effort to clean things up—from the subways to the streets to the way they greeted visitors. And they worked wonders! My second trip was not long after I published my first book. My sister Susan and I went to the city over spring break from school in 2008 to have a couple of meetings with people in the publishing industry. Imagine my surprise to find the place that had earned so many unhappy memories had transformed into a city that captivated me, heart and soul.
Susan and I truly “did the town” in those four days. We had a comfortable little hotel right off Restaurant Row, and we were able to walk almost everywhere. Times Square was entrancing. The noise. The light. The people. We were able to take in two really entertaining shows on Broadway. We toured the renovated Ellis Island, wondering if any of our Hungarian relatives were hiding in the myriad pictures of the people who passed through that portal in hopes of a better life. We ate at some fantastic restaurants, including a cozy Mexican place that had great food and two-for-one margaritas, and they sure didn’t skimp on the tequila. (Good thing it was only a block from our hotel, because neither of us could walk a straight line after that meal!)
Needless to say, my opinion of New York City was much improved.
I’ve been back twice since that enlightening Spring Break. Once for an RWA National Convention, and once when my husband—a man who swore he’d never voluntarily find himself stuck on an island with so many people and so few bridges—arranged for a four-day excursion so I could have lunch with my editor. On this fourth trip, it almost felt like coming home. The surroundings were so familiar, felt so right.
As much as I love New York City, it’s only been the setting for one of my books—Rules of the Game. Maddie was the first character I created who “belonged” in the Big Apple. But my love for New York City means that not only will I be back, but it will appear in some of my future stories.
“She weaves warmth from the pain, love from loss and wraps her readers in the beauty of her words.” Dii, The Tome Tender